Monday, February 28, 2011

What to say and how

I had a grand total of two history classes during the course of my education. The first was in junior high and began with australopithecus and ended with the Second World War. The second was in high school - the history of Qu├ębec and Canada which did venture into the modern age but was decidedly narrow in its scope. Anything else I know about history (and Canadian history in particular), is a result of personal study or exposure to things like Heritage minutes. I suppose this is a consequence of pursuing a degree in life sciences. If only our fields of study stayed broader longer... At any rate, when it comes to the Famous Five, I'll admit to knowing next to nothing (beyond those Heritage minutes which I'm told have some inherent problems). My daughters have been exposed to the concept of suffrage via Mary Poppins, which is to say, only at the most basic level. The question is - what do you say about the Famous Five to your five-year old? Obviously, you say the good stuff in simplified terms but do you qualify the statements? Do you launch into a discussion of whether the ends justify the means? Until my sister illuminated me, I was completely unaware of the controversy surrounding some of the members of the Famous Five. I had accepted information presented to me at face value, with none of the rigour or analysis I would have employed when receiving data in a "scientific" context. Bad on me. Still, I feel ill-equipped to determine what I should do with my mixed feelings on this issue. Advancing the feminist cause - definitely laudable. Doing so in a potentially racist way... yikes. I don't think I want to have this conversation with my daughter and yet - I don't want to give her sanitized information either.
As a parent, there are many times when I have to navigate a tricky conversation with my daughter. Sometimes I do a good job, and sometimes I do not. Certainly, this issue has not proven as fraught with opportunities to truly mess up as in conversations on mortality, however, like most parents, I want to do right by my children and impart a certain set of values along the way - no matter the topic.
I think in the end, I will tell her that it's not just what you say and do that's important, but also how (a concept that should already be familiar). Maybe that's enough detail for now. After all, it's that very idea that has made me struggle over this issue in the first place.